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Independents' Day

Lockdown highlighted the struggles faced by the trans community

Dr Kamilla Kamaruddin

Lockdown has been difficult for many members of the trans community, and isolation within a household not accepting to them is a living hell. Many couldn’t live openly, or suffered physical and verbal abuse; deteriorating mental health; and increased anxiety. Neither could they go out for help and support - access to community centres or a safe gathering space was denied. Walking our deserted street exposes them to assault and violence.

When JK Rowling said: ‘If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased’, it was offensive to trans people, by implying it’s impossible to change sex. I’m surprised that a writer of her calibre was linguistically ignorant in failing to understand the difference between sex and gender.

She was also conflating her experience of domestic violence with the rights of trans people. She acknowledges trans people are frequently victims of violence, yet what she said would endanger people like me. The recent sightings of right-wing male protestors in London shouting racist slogans and wearing bras gave us a clear message that the threat of violence against trans people is real, and it’s evident following her comments. That’s what privilege does to you - you become ignorant of the implications of harm that you could cause from your comments.

Yet we trans people stood alongside her when The Sun gratuitously published a front-page story that gave voice to and legitimised her abuser. We understood her pain and struggle to overcome the stigma and what’s it like to be the receiving end of abuse and violence. And we understood what’s it like to emphasise the blame on the victims, rather than the perpetrators of violence.

It's happening, it’s relevant, and it’s affecting trans people unjustly

Tory equalities minister Liz Truss recently said the Government is rejecting ‘trans inclusive’ policies that some believe threaten women’s rights and seek to scrap proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). They will instead produce ‘new protections’ that will not allow trans women into women’s spaces. They seek to ban trans women’s existing rights to use women’s bathrooms, changing rooms, refuges and other ‘female-only’ spaces. In the NHS, rules allowing trans women to use female wards are set to be rewritten. It was full of rhetoric of hate.

The reality is that trans rights have never been a threat to single-sex spaces. Trans people have been using public toilets according to their chosen gender, trying on clothes in changing rooms and been welcomed in women refuges for a very long time. Trans women who are victims of domestic violence have been welcomed to seek refuge in women refuges since the Equality Act 2010. The numbers are very small.

There is not a shred of evidence from the judiciary, police, women’s refuges and local authorities that trans predators are invading single-sex spaces and abusing women and girls. The Government has not offered a single evidence to justify their rejection of ‘trans inclusive’ policies.

In North Carolina, USA, a law was introduced by the Republican state in 2016 that demanded that people only use toilets which corresponded to the gender stated on their birth certificate. This resulted in cis-gender women who looked masculine being harassed, humiliated and verbally abused. Trans men who has the appearance of cis-gender men were forced to use women’s toilets. In the end, the law was abolished because it was unworkable and presented difficulties to the women that it wants to protect.

There is a lot of talk recently about trans rights. Trans rights, inclusivity, diversity and intersectionality have almost become buzzwords. I make no excuses for it - it’s happening, it’s relevant, and it’s affecting trans people unjustly. We hope our allies will do more to address this inequality - we must go deeper and continue this conversation. The pain and struggle for trans people is real, and in many ways, lockdown has highlighted this. We need protection and kindness for us to lead our lives quietly.

Dr Kamilla Kamaruddin is a GP in East London and PCN clinical director in Tower Hamlets 

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Vinci Ho

    Thank you for writing this article .

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  • David Banner

    Whilst I appreciate that the author is passionate and knowledgeable about her subject, this article perfectly demonstrates how polarised the trans debate has become.

    The proposed changes to the GRA included “self ID”, which most of us would agree with, but clearly requires safeguarding......NOT from trans people, but abusive deviant cis males who might exploit the self ID loophole to gain access to women’s safe spaces.But any attempt to discuss (for example) a rapist self-declaring himself as female and demanding a transfer to a women’s prison is shouted down as “transphobic hate speech”, killing an important debate instantly.

    And the misogynistic vilification of JKR, a social liberal who has put her money where her mouth is in support of many LGBT causes, just because she questions the deliberately provocative “trans women are women” slogan, is truly shameful.

    The real tragedy here is that ordinary trans people are being misrepresented by the trans activists. My trans female patients are welcomed as women, but fully accept they remain biologically male, (I still have to worry about their prostate) no matter how much the activists try to convince them otherwise.

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  • I agree with David Banner above. JKR is in a minority group which has also suffered oppression and prejudice. Women cannot be told that they cannot self identify as a group of biological females, with the disadvantages and risks that entails. Trans women are not ‘women’ in every sense. Speaking the truth cannot be hateful. A post-truth world puts us all at greater risk. Policies need to consider the risks and harms to all groups, not just those with the strongest lobbyists. Women are at threat in spaces where men can access such as prisons, changing rooms, toilets. It is not the trans-women we worry about but the men who will abuse the new laws. And there are higher rates of sexual assault undertaken by Trans-women in prisons so this should also be borne in mind and not white-washed.

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  • Agree with both posters above. Debate is too polarised and common sense is always found in the middle ground.
    Good point above that it is the abuse of any new laws by those not in the trans community that we need to be worried about.

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